A few months ago, I received a new sketchbook from a friend James Lee to test out. It's called the Arkademie Artist's Sketchbook, a premium leather bound sketchbook filled with Fabriano's Rosaspina print making paper (220gsm). James Lee used to teach in the arts industry and has recently made the bold move to start his own product line called Arkademie.
In addition to the Artist's Sketchbook, there's also the Plain Journal with 120gsm Maple Ivory paper.
The sketchbook has a thick full-grained vegetable-tanned buffalo-hide leather cover. It's quite hard so you can consider this a hardcover. The leather texture is nice to touch, of course. And just like leather, it's going to record scratches and other marks, but all that will make it more unique and give it more character. The leather is extremely durable. I've thrown my sketchbook into my bag countless times and it does not show any signs of wear and tear.
On the cover, there's a strap that you can use to keep the covers together.
There are 60 pages. The pages have deckled edges on the top and bottom, and straight cut on the side.
There's a pen loop beneath the strap. The pen loop is useful but in real life, I found out that I usually bring more than one pen so I usually just use my pen wrap or pencil case instead of that loop.
That's the back of the sketchbook. The strap is sewed properly onto the cover.
A leather bookmark is included.
The Fabriano Rosaspina paper used in this sketchbook is actually print making paper. Cotton content is 60%. Rosaspina is a mould made paperboard that's suitable for all printmaking techniques (etching, lithography and silk-screening). While there's no mention that it can be used with watercolour, it does handle watercolour quite well. Hence, it's a paper suitable for mixed media.
Rosaspina paper is available in white and ivory. It seems like the one in this sketchbook is the ivory. It's off-white, with a slight warm hue to it.
The fine grain texture is able to produce nice granulation texture with granulating paints.
The sketchbook does not open totally flat for the first few pages. Once you get to the centre, the sketchbook can be opened quite wide. You can still draw across two pages even if the sketchbook doesn't open totally wide though.
Watercolour handles well on the surface. The paper is not too dry which is what I like. I don't do a lot of glazing so I don't know exactly how durable the paper is. But at 60% cotton content, it should be able withstand a few layers of watercolour. I doubt the paper fiber will come out that easily.
That's how the binding looks like behind the cover. Page 2 and 3 are glued together.
Unfortunately for me, or partially my fault, I pressed down that area too hard and the pages separated. I sent it back to James Lee for repair and the photo just before the one above is how it should look. So don't be like me, don't press down too hard on those pages, or don't draw across those two pages.
Anyway, that's how the signatures are stitched together, at 6 places across the spine.
There's a small gap here between these two signatures. I think the stitching needs to be a bit tighter.
This is a pricey sketchbook. It's selling at SGD 97. That's around USD 70. Price does not include shipping.
The quality is good except you have to be careful about the glue splitting from page 2 and 3. You just have to be careful and that should not be a problem. James Lee has been notified of the glue and binding. He said that the sketchbook will be further improved upon.
Overall, this sketchbook is really durable. The paper quality is quite good. I love deckled page edges. I enjoyed painting on this sketchbook. The sketchbook is marketed as an archival sketchbook. The leather is going to last, the acid-free pages will not turn yellow.
One thing that does concern me is whether the leather is treated to prevent mold. That I'll have to see in the long run, and maybe update this review in the future.
However, because of the price, this is a sketchbook that should appeal to those who want something exquisite. Having a leather bound sketchbook is classy. So it really comes down to what you value in a sketchbook.